Building the Prosperity Now Brand: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Editor’s Note: I sat down with Kristin Lawton—Prosperity Now Communications Director, mastermind behind the launch of our new brand, and my boss/friend/mentor—to shed some light on how we got to this important moment in our history.

SEAN LUECHTEFELD: Changing CFED’s name is a big deal, and one that has been in the making for quite some time. Tell us what led the organization to rethink its name.

KRISTIN LAWTON: Those of us who have been at Prosperity Now for a long time have had the pleasure of hearing [Founder] Bob Friedman tell the story of the “Corporation for Enterprise Development” name. Forty years ago, our name was a reflection both of our focus at the time, and of the era in which the organization was created. And, by and large, the name worked for us…but it had its limitations. People didn’t always know what it stood for, and if you explained, that didn’t necessarily clarify. Over time, it just became clear the time was right, and we figured that with a more understandable and accessible name, more people would just “get it.” And, with more people bought in, there’s no telling where we can go.

SL: So how did you come up with Prosperity Now?

KL: Well, we had recently come off a strategic planning process, and part of that process was to help us to determine who we are and how we want to make that known to the community we work with. So, between that process and interviews and focus groups with staff, our leadership, our Board and several key stakeholders, we had a good set of data about who we are and who we [are not]. From there, we worked with a small, boutique-y firm—if you’re ever in the market for someone to help you rename your organization, I highly recommend the folks at Tanj—who helped us refine what we knew about our brand attributes and turn that into a name that captures it well.

Of course, it wasn’t quite that easy. We actually narrowed down the list of names from hundreds of options, and we fell in love with [the name itself] because we felt like it gets at what we hold important now, but that it will still hold relevance decades from now, even as the challenges we seek to address change and our strategies necessarily evolve.

SL: Hundreds of names? That sounds intense. What was the hardest part about picking the name?

KL: The thing that was probably the hardest wasn’t actually picking the name, but keeping it a secret. We had settled on the name and were all in agreement back in January, but had to keep it under wraps with our partners, friends and family—everyone. It felt weird not sharing it, but it had to go through the proper legal channels, we had to design our logo, we had to come up with messaging, there was the new website. [There was] a ton to do, so we had to keep it a secret, but it’s like when you know your friend is going to propose and you can’t say anything but you’re so excited that you can’t keep it in. It was kind of the worst-slash-best.

SL: With all of the changes we’ve rolled out this week, what can you say about the changes that folks in our community can expect?

KL: Oddly enough, not much changes. We’re still driven by our charge to make prosperity possible, especially for low-income families, families of color, people who have been excluded [from the financial mainstream] and so on. If anything, there are some labels that change—the Assets & Opportunity Network is now the Prosperity Now Community—but besides that, we just hope that it makes it easier for people to understand what we do, see the value in it [and] find what they’re looking for. You know, a lot of what we’ve done, especially on the new website, has really been driven by feedback, where people say to us, “We love what you do—but it’s hard to find.” So, the biggest change should be that things are easier.

SL: So how should people take advantage of these improvements? If you could ask readers to do only one thing to contribute to Prosperity Now’s success, what would it be?

KL: Well, that’s a really important question, because as much as we know that a new name and a bold new logo can help expand our reach, it ultimately comes down to what people choose to do once we’ve reached them. So, the most important thing people can do is to make sure they’ve joined the Community, and in the process, let us know what they’re interested in. The second part of that is really important because it’s what gets people not only on the Community list, but it’s what connects them with our Networks. So, for example, if you tell us you’re interested in Taxes, you won’t just get the biggest announcements and most timely information about our issues generally, you’ll also get alerts about how to protect important tax programs like VITA, insider info about what’s happening with tax reform, stuff like that. At the end of the day, taking those kinds of actions is the most meaningful thing folks can do, and the way to stay in the know about them is by joining the Community.

SL: Last question: What would you tell others out there thinking about changing their name or refreshing their brand?

KL: Above all, talk to me. So many people were willing to share their lessons with me. Our friends at Commonwealth [formerly D2D Fund] went through it most recently and they shared a lot. But there are so few people whose brains you can pick if you’re considering it, so I want to be generous and pay it forward. So, yeah…email me!

As you can imagine, Kristin and I could talk about Prosperity Now’s new brand for hours (and in fact, we have—many times over the past several months). So, we want to hear from you: what do YOU want to know about Prosperity Now? Ask your questions on social media using #WhyProsperityNow and we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes!

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